Mike Flanagan is the director of 2014’s Oculus and 2012’s Absentia. I shared a few words with Flanagan before the opening of Oculus.
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
Oculus represents your second horror movie after 2012’s Absentia. What’s the attraction of the genre?
For a movie to really connect with a wide audience, it has to tap into something universal. There’s hardly an emotion that isn’t present in horror.
Also, when we look at the world and experience evil, we have an intense need to try to explain it.
We mediate evil in our fictions. That’s what appeals about horror. It’s a safe laboratory in which to explore these kinds of issues. We need that space. At the end of the day, it’s more about feeling safe than feeling scared.
How difficult was it to expand a short into a full-length feature?
MF: It was incredibly daunting. It took us seven years to get rolling on the feature.
Can you say something about influences on your work?
MF: For me, it was The Shining and The Ring. I’m a big fan of The Eye (a 2008 thriller about a woman who begins seeing supernatural phenomenon after an eye transplant.) That movie used sound to great effect.
In this movie, the parents eventually pose a threat to their kids. I don’t want to give away too much, but could you comment on what seems to be a total reversal of the current tendency to indulge children?
MF: Inverting something that’s so protective and safe (parenthood) creates a sense of discomfort that goes against our basic instincts. That’s way more frightening than torture and gore.
Did dealing with siblings — both as kids and adults — and with their parents make for difficult casting?
MF: Flanagan: The first person we cast was Gillan and that made for a red-head requirement with the girl who would play her character in the flashbacks and with the mother. We wanted them to look like a plausible family, but that didn’t take precedence over performance.
Was working with kids difficult?
MF: You hear people talking about the difficulty of working with child actors. I didn’t have that experience at all. These kids blew me away in their auditions. Intuitively, they snap into a fearless commitment to make believe.
Are you planning to make more horror movies
MF: Flanagan: I want to play around with other genres, but I think I’ll always find my way back to horror.